Friday, December 26, 2008

How much tragedy can one family take?

Those of you who read my blog are well aware of the horrible tragedy that struck my family a year ago when my little cousin Nicole was hit by a car.  

One week after that, my grandmother passed away.  

And then, almost three weeks ago . . . a year and a day after my gramma passed away, tragedy struck again.  

On December 8th, 2008, Ana -- Nicole's mom and my hero -- was killed in a single vehicle accident when she hit a patch of black ice on her way to work.  

It's been almost three weeks, and it still doesn't feel real to me.  I can still here her voice in my head, clear as day.  I can still imagine her face as if she were standing right next to me.  I still expect to see her when I go into the domestic violence shelter where we both worked.  

When I think about the things we'd normally talk about on Thursdays when I'd stop in her office before I clocked in, I can still imagine her responses and her reactions to the things I'd have to say . . . how when I'd tell her about a guy I was attracted to and flirting with, she'd always ask "Is he a good kisser!?" Or how when I'd vent about how tired I was from working so much while trying to go to school full-time, and still being unable to keep up on bills . . . and she'd ask me if I wanted her to hit my dad up for money! Heh . . . she always made sure I was taken care of. 

And when I'd talk about school . . . about my achievements and my future goals . . . she'd tell me to reach for the stars, and I'd get them.  She'd tell me that I was soaring, and that she was so proud of me.  

I wanted so much to make her proud of me.  And she was.  She never missed an opportunity to make that fact abundantly clear.  Her encouragement was genuine and true, and it was never ending. To have someone whom I've looked up to so much for so many years believe in me as much as she did was an amazing gift that I would never even think about taking for granted. 

I felt I owed so much of my success in life to her, that when I recieved my big scholarship this past fall, it was her and Nicole that I asked to be my guests at the awards dinner.  And during my speech that night, it was during the part in which I was thanking Ana for her years of support, and telling her that I've always wanted to be just like her that I broke down crying.  

The emotions that came along with telling my hero that she was, in fact, my hero, were just overwhelming.  

How did this relationship come to be?  How did she become my hero?  

I met Ana when I was 8.  She was in a relationship with my cousin Mike, and was about to give birth to Nicole.  My home life at that point in time wasn't exactly stellar.  My mother was in a physically abusive relationship, and I was around drugs and alcohol in abundance.  Every other weekend my older brother and I had visitation with my dad.  Dad drove a semi, long-haul, for a company out of St. Louis, and didn't really have an actual home at the time, so on the weekends he had us, we stayed with family.  When I was 8, we started staying down on my cousin Mike's farm.  

I was in heaven.  It instantly became my favorite place on earth, and not just because it was a big farm with lots of animals.  Ana treated me differently than the other adults in my life did.  She made me feel welcome and accepted and never excluded.  She taught me things . . . we'd cook, we'd sew, we'd use tools and build animal hutches for the various creatures that would always make thier way down to the farm that I've always referred to as my oasis.  She taught me those things that I was severely lacking . . . life skills.  

More than anything else, she taught me how a healthy couple should behave.  

I can remember one time, sitting on the couch watching a movie.  I could hear Mike and Ana in the bedroom arguing over something.  I remember feeling so scared I was sick to my stomach.  The more thier voices raised, the stiffer I sat, deathly afraid of what was to come.  After all, everytime that happened at home, it ended with bruises and blood.  

And then, after a while, Ana cracked a joke, and Mike laughed.  Next thing I knew, they were both giggling and being silly.  

Ana taught me that people can disagree and still love each other . . . and not hurt one another. 

Life didn't have to be about jealousy or drugs and alcohol or power and control.  Love didn't mean to obey your spouse or get hit.  

I wasn't lying when I said in my speech that I wanted to be just like her.  And it started then.  Ana worked as an advocate at a domestic violence shelter.  I knew by the time I was 14, that I wanted to do the same thing, except with a psychology degree.  I job shadowed her in high school, and when I turned 18 and was old enough to do so, I took the 80 hour volunteer training course required to work or volunteer at the shelter.  Before I was done with that course, I had a job lined up there.  For the past 7 years, I've had the pleasure of working alongside my hero, helping victims of domestic violence.  

She was my hero when I was 8, and she will be my hero until the day that I die.  

It still hasn't really hit me that she's gone.  I don't know when it will sink in and become a reality.  A big part of me still refuses to admit that I'll never again hear her voice . . . that she'll never again be there to tell me that I can do whatever I want to do in life.  

I love her and I miss her, and there will always be a hole in my life where she belonged.  

I hope you are well, up in heaven, Ana.  I hope you are up there with Lori, watching us . . . watching your daughter walk for the first time since nearly losing her in her accident a year ago . . . watching me do my best to keep making you proud.  

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Taking a break, it seems . . .

It's come to my attention that I can no longer safely open up on my blog, so if you don't see any posts from me for a while, that's why.

Be safe in this icy weather, everyone! 

So, what do you do when it's the middle of winter, and there's nothing worthwhile going on?

You wreak retail havoc!  

You surrender to your hunger at the rootbeer stand . . .


You test the furniture at Target . . .


You chow down some more at Steak 'n' Shake . . .



You nap at Starbucks . . .


You play Guitar Hero for an hour in the electronics department of Walmart . . .




You, um . . .


. . . well, nevermind!  

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prop 8: The Musical

Found this on one of the many forums I frequent!  

Jack Black as Jesus . . . PERFECT! 

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Year.

(Written Sunday, November 30th, but didn't get around to posting it until today)
A year ago today, my world came crashing down on me.  

A year ago today, my nightmares came true.  

A year ago today, something I never thought would happen, happened.  

A year ago today, my little cousin Nicole . . . the light of my life since I was eight . . . was hit by a car and severely injured. The pain, the desperation, the hopelessness I felt that night and in the months after that is indescribable. I almost feel guilty talking about my pain . . . knowing that the physical pain that Nicole was going through was so much more than I could even imagine . . . which hurt me even more.  

Looking at the early pictures is painful, too.  


I remember so well the hours and hours I spent standing at her bedside, praying she'd wake up. I remember so well the doctors and nurses telling us not to get our hopes up. I remember the 'V' word being mentioned, in hushed tones. I remember all of those times I made that hour long drive home, navigating the entire way through tears.  

I can recall how happy I was when she started opening her eyes . . . even though she couldn't focus them on anything.  


And then very slowly, more and more signs of recovery. How great it felt when she started holding tight to my hand, and looking at me, not through me.  


She fought through obstacle after obstacle, from MRSA infections to siezures . . . it was a struggle, but nothing stopped her.  

The first time I saw her respond to direction (look at the thumbs up!) I spent another tearful drive home . . . only it was tears of joy this time.  


And just look at those gorgeous eyes.  


There were so many nights I went home totally emotionally drained, thinking I couldn't feel any more empty . . . dead inside . . . it was those little milestones that kepts us all going . . . that fueled that faint glimmer of hope we all clung to so desperately.  I can't tell you how many nights I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning pouring my heart out to my friends and loved ones who held me up through the entire ordeal. But Nicole's strong will pulled us all through.  

After 5 months in the hospital, Nicole was transferred to the Walter Lawson Children's home, where she was expected to live until she turned 18 (which was only a little over a month away). The doctors told us she would need lifelong skilled care.  

Little did they know that within the first few hours at Walter Lawson, the angels that work there helped Nicole to prove the doctors wrong.  They began testing her abilities, and we quickly found out that she had the capacity to do way more than any of us had dreamed.  

And then came the happiest day of my life.  The first day I visited her at Walter Lawson.  Her mom, dad, and friend Ryan were all on thier way, but I got there a couple of hours earlier.  She was worn out from therapy, and slept for a good portion of the time . . . but I can so clearly remember when she took my hand and brought it up to her face and kissed it not once, but three times.  When Mom, Dad, and Ryan got there, they had a suprise for her . . . they brought her puppy, Gypsy, and her Guinea Pig, Cocopuff.  

When they came in, Nicole's eyes lit up, and she smiled the biggest, most beautiful smile I've ever seen in my life.  Seeing her smile for the first time made my heart burst with joy.  




That alone was enough to make it the best day of my life, but it didn't end there.  

She fed herself, and drank by herself . . . 


. . . and no, that still wasn't it.  After dinner that day, I thought she might like to color . . . I thought it might help with her motor skills.  I figured she might be able to scribble around a bit. 


But much to our surprise . . . 


If you can't read it, it says "I love you guys so much." 

Indeed, Nicole was not destined to stay there forever.  After only a few short weeks, they moved her to Marionjoy Rehabilitation Center, not to live out her days, but to rehabilitate her enough to go home.  

Home!  That's a word we never thought we'd hear in reference to Nicole.  

She soared at Marionjoy, and we had a lot of fun on our visits . . . from watergun fights, to board games, to playing "hide Dad's hat." 




We spent her 18th birthday in Marionjoy . . . 


She started getting anxious to come home.  She'd beg us to stay, and she'd get really upset when we left . . . but that strong will of hers kept showing through, and she got better and better . . . 

July 3rd, after 7 months in hospitals and rehab centers, she came home.  How symbolic, coming home the day before Independence Day! 



. . . and everyday since then has been a miracle for all of us.  The old Nicole shines through more and more each day . . . 






Recently, Nicole had surgery to try and correct the atrophy that was bending her foot up into a pretzel.  So far, so good . . . we're hoping her foot continues to stay straight, and we won't have any problems with that anymore.  In the meantime, she's starting to put weight on it, and slowly starting to use crutches to get around more and more, relying on her wheelchair less and less.  

Now to backtrack a bit . . . 

When Nicole first went into the hospital, we were basically living in the Neurological Intensive Care waiting room . . . the morning after we set up camp, a wonderful man named Alberto joined our family, too.  He, his wife, and his son had all been in an accident, leaving his wife paralyzed from the waist down.  Just as in our case, those first few weeks were very difficult for him and his family to get through.  Our families bonded, supported each other, took care of each other, and cried with each other.  Alberto is from Chicago, and owns a mexican bakery.  

Before Nicole ever woke up, I told her about him.  I told her that when she was better, we were going to go up to Chicago and go to Alberto's bakery for some tasty treats.  

It'll be more than a year in the making when it happens, but, as you can see by this long photo story I've written out . . . it WILL happen.  

Nicole is a living, breathing miracle, and not a day goes by that I don't thank the heavens that she is still here with us.  Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for the hundreds of people that rallied around her and prayed for her and cheered her on and never gave up on her.  

Not a day goes by that I don't cherish every moment that I have with her.  

November 30th, 2008.  One year since that horrible accident.  I spent the day with Nicole, cuddled up on the couch during a snowstorm, watching movies, eating good food, and helping her set up her new Myspace page.  A boring day to some, but I had to keep myself from getting choked up on several occasions.  I never thought I would be so thankful for such simple moments.  

Here's to a year of sorrow and joy, tragedy and triumph . . . and miracles upon miracles.  


Saturday, November 29, 2008

I <3 Rick Astley

Thanks to Stacey for passing this along!  


That's the REAL Rick Astley, folks!!! At the Macy's Parade! How freaking awesome is that!? 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I have thanks to give.

Last year I posted my obligitory 'what am I thankful for' post on Thanksgiving, and I think I'll do that again this year, starting with some updates on last year's post.  

The first thing I mentioned in last year's post was the time that I had been able to spend with my Gramma in the several months previous.  Just a couple of weeks later, my Gramma passed away, making that time that I was able to have with her that much more special.  I'm having a hard time believing that it's already been almost a year . . . some days I almost forget that she's gone. This year, I am thankful that my Gramma lived a long life, filled with family and love.  I am thankful that I have so many wonderful experiences to remember her by. 


In last year's post, I mentioned my teachers that have been so great.  This year, I can add to that quite a bit.  As I mentioned, not long after Thanksgiving last year, Gramma passed away . . . but a week before that, my little cousin was in a horrible accident (something I've written about here often).  If it weren't for my teachers and councelors at school, I'd have had a much harder time getting through it.  First and foremost was my English teacher at the time, Mr. Lockwood.  I already thought he was a great teacher, but after Nicole's accident, he went above and beyond to make sure I made it through my most difficult time  . . . not only that I survived it emotionally, but also that I survived it without giving up all I had worked for at school.  He was always there with an encouraging word, a prayer, or homework/school advice. To this day, I consider him to be one of my closest allies at IVCC.  He has assisted me by giving me advice on several papers that weren't even for his class . . . he played a major part in the scholarships I recieved . . . and he is a big part of the reason I haven't had a complete nervous break down at school when things are getting to be too much.  

And he's just one of the great people I've been blessed with at school.  There are several others there that have helped to change my life, and to encourage me to become a better person . . . my Anthropology teacher from spring semester . . . my music teacher from last fall . . . my English II teacher, who still emails me with books she thinks I'd like, or scholarships she thinks I am perfect for . . . my co-workers in the financial aid office . . . my Geology teacher who has the ability to make me enjoy learning about a subject that is supremely boring for me (Sorry Mr. Phillips!) He's also my College Democrats Advisor, so I've gotten to have a lot of fun with him this semester.  The list doesn't end there, either . . . but if I named everyone, I'd be here all night! 

I'm thankful for a small group of friends I met on one of my forums whom I have become incredibly close with.  They've been there with me through everything for more than two years now, supporting me when I need it, and telling me I'm being an idiot, when I need it. ;) I'm honestly not sure what I'd do if I didn't have them there for me.  

I'm thankful that I got the chance to get so involved in politics this year.  I learned so much, experienced so many great things, and met some truly wonderful people who I am now proud to call my friends.  I'm also thankful that our efforts paid off.  


I'm thankful for the friends I've been blessed with from all around the world.  Once, I never thought you could have a true friend that you'd never met in real life before, but I can't tell you how many good people I've 'met' on the internet, who I grew to truly care about.  And I have to say, it's endless entertainment discussing language differences with my favorite Aussie, Ian! I'm gonna know all the lingo if I go there someday! :P 

I'm always thankful for Joe and Sky, my two best friends.  I couldn't begin to explain how much those two have changed my life.  Joe in particular.  Enduring Nicole's accident would have been difficult without my teachers and friends who supported me . . . but it would have been downright impossible without him.  I can still remember that day . . . the third day after Nicole's accident . . . when that awful nurse implied that we'd be meeting with the Dr. the next day to discuss pulling the plug . . . every one of us had the feeling of losing all hope . . . we were so empty . . . so dead inside . . . we couldn't stop sobbing for hours on end.  That's not an exaggeration.  When the priest came into the waiting room, I totally lost it, and had to leave the room.  I called Joe, who was incredibly busy with finals at the time . . . and he took the time to listen to me.  He didn't talk much . . . he didn't have to . . . and probably couldn't have if he tried . . . because I was just sitting there on the floor at the end of a long corridor of the Neurological Critical Care Unit, with my head on my knees, sobbing uncontrollably into the phone.  He didn't have to talk.  The fact that he was there, on the other end of that phone, was all I needed to make it through that dreadful night.  I know Joe knows how much he means to me and how thankful I am for all he's done for me . . . but I don't think it's possible for him to ever know how thankful I am that he was there for me that night . . . just listening to me sob.  He is an amazing friend, and I couldn't ask for anything better.  



And that brings me to the thing I am the most thankful for this year.  Nicole.  

I wish I knew the name of that nurse that implied that the meeting we were having with the Dr. the next day was to discuss pulling the plug.  I wish I could tell her the pain that she inflicted on so many of us that were already feeling like they couldn't hurt anymore.  

That nurse was wrong, and she had no business saying the things she did.  

We didn't discuss pulling the plug.  We didn't listen to anyone who put a limit on how far they felt Nicole could come . . . and neither did Nicole.  Nicole didn't listen when they said she might not live.  She didn't listen when they said she might never come out of her coma.  She didn't listen when they said she'd be a vegetable for the rest of her life.  She didn't listen when they said she would live out her days in an institution.  

I'm so very thankful that Nicole didn't listen to any of those people.  I'm so very thankful that Nicole came home on July 3rd, after 7 months in hospitals and rehab centers.  July 3rd.  Her Independence Day.  

I think it's safe to say that I have more to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day than any Thanksgiving I've ever had.  What a wonderful time to be alive.  


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Halfway there!

Believe it or not, once upon a time, I ate healthy, and worked out very regularly.  No! Really!  I did!  Up until almost exactly a year ago, actually, when my life was drastically changed, and the time for exercise disappeared, and the need for comfort food increased exponentially.  

So, I've gotten a little out of shape.  Just a little.  Not much.  At all.  I swear.  (Ok, I'm downright fat).  

I am DETERMINED to get back to where I was a year ago.  Back to working out 6 hours a week (ok, at least 3).  Back to eating a moderately healthy diet.  Back to feeling good about myself.  

I've tried on more than one occasion in the past year to get into my groove again, but thus far I've failed every time.  I decided a couple of weeks ago to try something I used to do when I was younger and I was feeling unhealthy . . . it always worked as a jumpstart for all of the other aspects of getting in shape.  I'm going on a soda fast.  I've gotten to the point where I'm drinking it WAY too much.  I've been running myself ragged, and everytime I need a little pick-me-up . . . head to the vending machine!  Must have caffiene! 

I had to put a stop to it.  

I'm now on day 15 of what I planned on being a 30 day soda fast.  And it's working.  I'm already eating better all around, without putting much thought into it.  I'm no longer craving sweets nearly as much as I did before.  I'm *really* wanting to get back into my regular workout routine . . . in fact, that's what I'm craving now.  

Halfway through, and I've only barely begun to do the other things . . . and I'm already feeling great.  I might just have to push myself a little further . . . two months, perhaps?  

Hopefully I will have updates on continued progress in the future! Summer is comin' (humor me, I hate winter, and I have to keep myself going somehow!), and I wanna look GOOOD! :P 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is love? (Baby don't hurt me!)

This is going to be another one of those "What is love to me?" posts.  Only this one is a blast from the past for me.  I was just in my storage room looking through some old boxes, and I found something I wrote about 8-9 years ago.  Thought I'd post it up for y'all. ;)  It's a little cheesy, I know. 

"What does it mean to truly love someone? What does it mean to me, deep in my heart? It means letting down my guard, tearing down the emotionless, stone walls that protect my heart. It means learning to take the risk of getting hurt.  Baring my soul completely, leaving my innermost desires and fears vulnerable to manipulation and deceit, or to love and encouragement.  It means not holding back anything and giving my all.  For an inhibited love is not true love, but instead, fear.  Fear of what?  That's different for everyone and every situation.  It could be a fear of change, a fear of unrequited love, a fear that if you take that leap, you will lose other things that you hold dear.

When you love someone, you don't hide your insecurities, because that person doesn't make you feel insecure.  Love is confidence.  Love is optimism.  Love doesn't think the glass is half empty or half full . . . the glass is overflowing.  And love never stops growing.  it's boundless, and it's our duty to test that theory all the time.  Pushing it further and further, and if we think we've hit a boundary and can love no more, we must break that boundary.

Love is willing to sacrifice.  A true love involves both sides giving up certain things to make the other one happy, until a common ground is reached.  Love is patience.  A love quick to anger, quick to accuse, isn't love -- it's jealousy, and it's a fight for control over the other person.  True love, though, stops to think and to understand.  It's forgiving.  It's honest.  That's what true love is to me."


See? Told ya it was cheesy. ;) 

Monday, November 24, 2008


I don't know if I've ever told you guys this, but I'm an N.I.T. (That's Nerd In Training).  It's true.  

My trainers are Nerds Extraordinaire, Sky and Joe, pictured here: 


One of the many nerdy things these two turned me on to is the nerdilicious webcomic XKCD.  

As the description states . . . it's a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Something to appeal to everyone.  It's incredible how the young author, (younger than me!) Randall Munroe, can come up with such clever and witty comics every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without fail.  

I can't tell you how often I've logged on to read his latest offering, only to be cleaning whatever I was drinking at the time off of my monitor moments later.  You should check XKCD out!  Here's the latest: 

(click to view larger)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama, stirring up controversy already!

So, he hasn't even taken over for the office of the presidency, and he's already stirrin' up the controversy! 

Read for yourself: Obama's use of complete sentences stirs controversy

A friend passed that little gem along, and I got a kick out of it! Though you might, too! 

A recent youtube discovery

So, this morning I was chatting with my friend Ian, and he linked me to a youtube video of some people singing the Beatles song, "Across the Universe."  

Now, I know . . . millions of people put up crappy youtube videos of themselves covering famous songs.  But the difference is, these guys aren't too bad, and they seem to be gaining attention.  

Here's the video of Wade Johnston, Julia Nunes and friends singing "Across the Universe." 

Next, Ian started telling me about a stop-motion video Julia Nunes did.  This is pretty damn cool! 

I haven't yet had time to look through more of thier videos, but I'm looking forward to it!  I have a feeling these guys are gonna go somewhere! (In fact, I believe they even did Youtube Live last night!)

So . . . sore . . .

So, Friday night was an interesting night.  I met up with my Democrat buddies, and we hung out all night for the first time since the election.  Pizza hut (ack), a movie (Role Models . . . HILARIOUS!), and karaoke and dancing.  And dancing.  And more dancing.  

Have I ever told you guys that I like to dance?  

Well, I do, but it's been a while for me.  Let me just tell you, my muscles aren't too happy with me!  I am SO SORE!!!  

Since I've been so busy with everything lately, my life has been a little more sedate than I'd prefer.  My muscles are no longer used to actually doing WORK.  They've been living the easy life.  So, when "Baby Got Back" came on, and I couldn't resist making a fool out of myself and danced my little behind off, I overdid it just a bit . . . I'm paying for it now.  I can hardly go down the stairs!  If I end up sitting on the floor for some reason, Lord only knows how I'll get back up!  

But it was SO worth it.  It's been quite some time since I've had this much fun.  I can't wait to do it again!  

I got a few pictures with my iPhone, but they're HORRIBLE quality!  

My favorite picture of the night: Mike, my dance partner, and Brian . . . the little and the big, together in one picture! (watch Role Models, you'll understand that one! :P 


Brian, workin' the hat.  Brian loves his hat.  


So does Mike, apparently. (I REALLY wish this one was taken with a better camera!)


Mike loves Karaoke.  This is one of the many MANY songs that he butchered.  (By butchered, I mean changed all of the words to it to create his own funny song . . . made for a lot of laughs, actually!)


Brie and Brian


Ha, the look he's giving me makes me laugh! :P 


No pictures of me.  It was strange . . . I looked good that night, but every picture I took of me I looked like hell! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day One

A friend posted this on one of the forums I frequent.  I *love* it! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Last Lecture

Another powerful and moving thing I took from class today was The Last Lecture.  We only watched the first 20 minutes in class, but I just couldn't wait to finish watching it when I got home. 

The premise behind The Last Lecture is basically asking teachers the question: "If you knew you were about to give your last lecture, what would you talk about?" 

Well, in Randy Pausch's case, it wasn't a very far stretch.  At the time of this lecture, he'd been diagnosed with cancer and only had a few months to live.  

His lecture is about achieving your childhood dreams.  He talks about his childhood dreams, how he went about achieving each of them, and how he helped others achieve thiers.  He delivers his message in a unique and profound way, and kept me laughing throughout the entire thing.  So many of the things he says made me stop and go "Wow . . . I never thought about it that way."  

I sat here glued to my computer screen, soaking in every last bit of wisdom he had to dole out (which was a pretty generous helping) until the very end.  I'm now sitting here with tears streaming down my face after watching this heartfelt and profound lecture.  

It's long, I know, but please watch it.  Break it up into segments if you have to, but watch it.  And then send it along to everyone you know, and urge them to watch it.  

Randy died in July of this year.  What he has left behind is nothing short of an unforgettable, phenomenal legacy.  

After a While

So, in one of my classes today, we were talking about how pain brings about the most pain (think about it . . . it's true) . . . and we got to talking about personal painful things that have happened in our lives, and the change it brought about.  In the course of doing so, my teacher shared with us a poem that someone shared with her a long time ago when she was going through a difficult time.  

I thought it was an incredibly beautiful and powerful poem, and it very much resonates with me and the stage of life I'm in right now . . . so I thought I'd pass it along as well.  

After A While 
©1971 Veronica A. Shoffstall 

After a while you learn 
the subtle difference between 
holding a hand and chaining a soul 
and you learn 
that love doesn't mean leaning 
and company doesn't always mean security. 
And you begin to learn 
that kisses aren't contracts 
and presents aren't promises 
and you begin to accept your defeats 
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, 
not the grief of a child 
and you learn 
to build all your roads on today 
because tomorrow's ground is 
too uncertain for plans 
and futures have a way of falling down 
in mid-flight. 
After a while you learn 
that even sunshine burns 
if you get too much 
so you plant your own garden 
and decorate your own soul 
instead of waiting for someone 
to bring you flowers. 
And you learn that you really can endure 
you really are strong 
you really do have worth 
and you learn 
and you learn 
with every goodbye, you learn... 

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Diego's Republican Mayor Sanders, on Gay Marriage

A very heartfelt and emotional speech.  This man has my utmost respect.  I got choked up while watching this, and still haven't gotten rid of the goosebumps! 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why I never buy milk . . .

. . . I bought a gallon of milk yesterday morning.  By the end of this evening, it will be gone.  Completely.  The whole gallon.  And I live alone.  

Between cereal (which I can't resist if I have it in the house), hot cocoa (which I can't resist if I have it in the house), and my love for plain ice cold milk (which I can't resist if I have it in the house), the stuff disappears at an alarming rate.  It's no wonder I have such a hard time getting and staying in shape! 

I think after this gallon is gone, I'm going to ban it from . . . *ding* . . . oh! Gotta go! Hot cocoa is done! 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'll finish one of these days . . .

Cleaning, the Corry Method: 

~ Turn on music

~ Clean furiously for an hour

~ Take short break to check email 

~ Clean furiously for 45 minutes

~ Take break for dinner

~Clean at a pretty good pace for 20 minutes

~ Check email, see if anything interesting is happening on her forums

~ Attack a pile of junk for a little bit

~ Find photo album in pile of junk . . . take break to look through it and get nostalgic

~ Check email and forums

~ Attack another pile of junk

~ Find old drawings/ poems/ papers, etc . . . take break to read through them 

~ Check email and forums 

~ Clean for five minutes

~ Check email and forums

~ Throw something away 

~ Make blog post . . . 

. . . you get the idea.  I guess that explains why I've been cleaning for two days, eh?  

Block Party

I love Pundit Kitchen.  :)  (And all of it's sister sites!)


A few years ago, I decided to try making my own hot cocoa mix at home, to help feed my hot cocoa addiction.  It tasted great, and it made a great, big batch that lasted me into the next year!  And I had fun doing it!  

Last year, I took it a step further and altered the recipe and made it my own.  I don't mean to brag, but I created one DELICIOUS hot cocoa mix! I added real milk chocolate shavings, made different flavors, and enlisted taste testers! I was so excited about my creation!  

I had plans to package it up in jars and give it out as gifts as Christmas . . . however, before that could happen, two major tragedies occurred in my family in the course of a week, just one month before Christmas, and my entire life halted . . . making gifts was the furthest thing from my mind.  

Instead, I used up about half of my supply throughout the course of the winter, using it as one of many sources of comfort foods I turned to during what was the darkest, most stressful time of my life.  

So, here it is a year later.  It's cold.  It's supposed to snow tomorrow.  And I still have some of my cocoa stash from last year.  

I just finished my first mug of the season, and it was DELICIOUS!  I'm looking forward to gathering up the ingredients, and making fresh batches of my scrumptious concoction with Nicole . . . one of last year's tragedies turned miracle.  

As anyone who knows me can tell you . . . I hate winter.  I hate snow season.  I hate sleet season.  I hate cold season.  

. . . but I sure love hot cocoa season! 

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Personification of the heart . . . a non-political blog entry

I don't know about you, but I've found my heart to be a deceitful, betraying little bastard. It makes you think that you are on the same team . . . that you are working together for a better life for YOU . . . but that's not *really* what the intentions of that lying little scoundrel are, are they?

Those of you who know me know that I've been through my share of heartache over the years. So much so, in fact, that I'm getting a bit gun-shy. That might not be a bad thing at this point in my life, either. For years I let my heart lead me through bad 'crushes' and relationships with people I wasn't compatible with . . . everytime ending in heartbreak of some form or another. You would think that being hurt would make me wake up and say "Wait a minute . . . maybe I shouldn't put my whole heart into it next time," but . . . you all know I have a big heart, with lots of love to give . . . my teeny tiny self confidence was no match for it.

But something finally started to change over the last couple of years . . . someone started to slowly feed my self-confidence, nurturing it to grow and to be strong and to learn to lead. Eventually, my heart took notice, stepped down, and let someone else have the reins. I learned to be happy by myself. I learned to love being single, working on my own life, nurturing my current friendships and building new ones, expanding my mind with school and new experiences . . . all of which made my self confidence even stronger.

I thought my heart was fine taking a rest, and not being in the lime-light.

But then the deceitful little bastard saw it's chance to strike when life was giving me a little too much to handle. It saw my self-confidence struggling, knocked it to the ground and said "Hey, he's kinda hot . . . I bet he'll give us some attention!"

My heart had the chance to frolick and play for a very short time before that very familiar feeling of heartache came rushing back. The cause this time was not the other person, but my own brain, stepping up and trying to pick my self-confidence off the ground saying "Lookie here . . . these are the reasons that this isn't going to happen . . . these are the reasons this isn't going to work . . . these are the reasons you need to regain control of your heart."

And so, the next order from the brain is to sit down and remind myself of what I want and need in a relationship so I can visually reinforce my standards, and give more power to my self-confidence.

So . . . here goes.

I want someone who truly cares about me, and who isn't afraid to show it.

I want someone who understands that I have flaws, and will love that much more for the harmless ones, and help me to change the harmful ones.

I want someone who can make me laugh until tears are streaming down my face, even in my darkest hour.

I want someone who knows when I need tough love, and isn't afraid to give it to me.

I want someone who will let me know he still cares about me, even when we are fighting like it's WWIII.

I want someone who will ALWAYS make me feel like I'm worth it.

I want someone who pushes me to be a better person.

I want someone who isn't exactly like me, and will open my mind to new experiences and new learning opportunities.

I want someone who cares about others.

I want someone who won't be jealous of my friends.

I want someone who is not quick to anger, and who will never intentionally hurt me, emotionally or physically.

I want someone who will care for my heart with a gentle touch, while continuing to nurture my self-confidence above all.

I want someone who wants me to be happy.

I think that's a pretty good list. I think my heart does, too, because it's feeling pretty good right now. It knows that all of these things come second to learning to love me, first.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's a New Day

This morning, November 5th, 2008, I was greeted by blue skies, warm sunshine, and a light, playful breeze that made the leaves dance as they fell from the trees.  With unseasonably warm temperatures, I walked my dog down the mainstreet sidewalk of my small town, comfortable in just a Tshirt and jeans.  As I walked along, I passed by people in thier daily routines of visting the Sweet Shop, the dentists office, the pharmacy . . . only today, something in the air was making it all seem . . . not quite so routine.  The mood was no longer the same.  

Across America in tiny towns like mine, we have all started getting used to the tension and worry that flows from person to person, growing like a mold, overtaking our lives.  We worry about the economy . . . about how we are going to afford the gas to get to work next week, or whether or not student loans will be available to us next year.  We worry about healthcare . . . about not being able to get treatment for injuries and illnesses because we can't afford health insurance, or perhaps we have insurance, but the premiums are so high, we fall short on the grocery budget for the month.  We worry about our brothers, sisters, uncles, and cousins who are fighting overseas . . . will they come home soon?  Will they come home at all?  

We long for the worry-free days that we once had, that have been slowly fading into our distant memories.  We wonder if our children will ever know a peace-time America.  

At 26, I am really only recently becoming truly aware of all of these concerns and how they affect my life and the lives of those I care about.  Maybe that makes me a late-bloomer, but better late than never, right?  

It is because of these worries that I decided that I want to have a say in my future . . . I want to make a difference in my country.  In the last 8 years I've watched as the greatest country in the world slowly sank deeper and deeper into the mud, damaging our friendships with other countries, denying and taking away the rights of her own citizens, and treating the constitution as if it were a useless piece of trash.  

And then election season began.  With it, a chance to change our dark future and reclaim our title as 'Greatest Country in the World.'  But this year, would we find a candidate strong enough and smart enough to lead us down that path?  We got our answer when a bright, young senator from Illinois announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential elections. Barack Obama wasn't like most other politicians, and when he spoke, people quickly began to take notice.  

The more I learned about him, the more I liked him.  I would watch him speak about his vision for America, and I could easily see him leading us there.  I wanted to get involved, to make a difference, but I didn't know how, other than the random pro-Obama blog entry here and there. Fall semester came along at school, and it wasn't long before I saw a flier for the College Democrats club.  I thought that it might be a good way to learn more about politics, and to learn how to support Obama.  I was sucked in and overtaken by this club, never missing a meeting, and losing out on lunch and 1/2 an hour's worth of pay every time we met.  I quickly realized that the brilliant luster of the presidential elections was overshadowing the importance of local elections in my mind. I started learning about the various local candidates, and as the elections drew nearer, our club started getting out more and more and supporting democrats both local and national.  The weeks went by, and the excitement grew, with weekends spent walking door to door, attending dinners and luncheons and candidate forums.  

We poured our lives into supporting these candidates, leaving less and less time for ourselves the closer the elections grew,  climaxing with the last few days before November 4th, when many of us were awake for no less than 43 hours, canvassing, calling, pollwatching, and more. 

Election day was a tense, exciting, and emotional day, and I will never forget any of it.  I will never forget the things I did, the people I met, the feelings I felt, the places I went.  

And I will never forget waking up this morning, and this beautiful, warm fall day, and instantly sensing that new feeling that was wafting through the air amongst my fellow townsfolk.  It was a feeling of tensions melting away, of worries disipating, and of hope blooming all around.  Only hours before, as November 4th was coming to a close, America elected Barack Obama as her new president.  

I couldn't help but feel good as I drove to school, and walked to my first class.  In the hallway on the way there, I passed a woman I highly respect -- my Anthropology teacher.  As she walked past me, she smiled, and summed up my feelings in one simple sentence.  "It's a new day."   

As goosebumps popped up on my arms, and a smile formed across my face, I was filled with an indescribable sense of pride and hope.  We did it.  It's a new day.  


For me, the elections themselves weren't the only thing that was filling me with hope and joy. As this new day was dawning, something else was going on at a personal level, as well.  

I found myself surrounded by people who felt the same way as I did.  People who want to make a difference.  People who want a voice.  

The college democrats meetings usually consist of a core group of people, all as full of enthusiasm as I have been.  Through the meetings I met Brian and Brie and McKenzie and Cari, among others.  Canvassing together, we quickly became friends with not only each other, but also with Mike, of the LaSalle/Bureau Co. democrats.  I found myself wanting time to slow down . . . not wanting the elections to come . . . fearing the day when we woud no longer have a convenient excuse to hang out with each other every week.  

We are certainly an odd crew, I'll give you that.  

With McKenzie, you never know what is coming, but you can most likely bet on it being inappropriate and hilarious, and probably a little crazy.  Brie gets in on the crazy, too, adding to it her knack for delivering quips that make you say "Wait, did she really just say that?" There's never a dull moment with these two.  

Cari brings with her her own share of crazy, as well, and along with it a good dose of chaos that we all need to shake up our lives.  (not a bad thing, folks!)

On the calmer side of things is Brian.  Don't mistake his calm demeanor for 'no fun', however, as he's the king of the well-placed 'your mom' joke that will leave you laughing until your sides hurt.  

And then there are our fearless leaders, the Mikes.  First, Mike the teacher and college democrats advisor.  He helped to inspire and nurture the collective drive of the group, and I've learned a lot from him.  

Next, Mike the canvassing coordinator.  Mike became our glue.  We could always count on him to tell crude jokes, sling insults, be generally gruff, and then turn around and enforce exactly how much he appreciated each of us, not letting anyone feel like thier role was unimportant. We quickly grew to love him.

And now it's all over.  These last couple of months have been wonderful, and now I fear that it's gone.  I fear that I won't have the chance to be entertained by McKenzie's antics, or Brie's shock-statements much anymore.  I fear that I will no longer be regaled with Cari's life stories.  I fear that I won't get to enjoy Brian's out-of-the-blue silly voices that crack me up, or his philisophical math discussions that are so far beyond my realm of knowledge. I fear that I will no longer have Mike the canvasser's 'bad' influence to get me to lighten up and have fun, or his encouraging nature to push me to keep fighting to the end. Mike the teacher I'm garaunteed to see three times a week until December.

I hope my fears aren't realized, and that my new group of friends and I can find a way to continue our friendship.  I also hope that they all know how much they've meant to me over the last couple of months.  Thanks to each and every one of you for being a positive part of my life.  

Illinois, district 11, you did the right thing, too!

As I mentioned a week or two ago, the person I've been canvassing for the most, working the hardest to get elected, is Illinois Senator Debbie Halvorson, who was running for congress.  

All of our hard work paid off, and Senator Debbie Halvorson is now Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson!  

Congratulations to her!

See November 2nd's posting for more a photo.  

Good job, America.

You did the right thing!  I'm so proud of my country!  Congratulations, President-elect Barack Obama!